Brown

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - A debate between California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman became increasingly heated as it turned to the use of the word "whore."

Brown, the state's current attorney general and a Democrat, had issued an apology last week after one of his aides was heard in a taped telephone message referring to GOP rival Whitman as a "whore."

Brown had left a message with the Los Angeles Police Protective League. After he apparently believed he had hung up the telephone, the machine continued to record a conversation between himself and a group of aides.

During the hour-long debate at Dominican University on Tuesday, both candidates touched on various issues, including job creation, taxes, unions, governmental reform, law enforcement and immigration.

At one point, NBC's Tom Brokaw, who moderated the exchange, asked Brown if he was upset about the use of the word "whore" by one of his staffers.

Brown apologized, but only after saying it was hard "to detect who it is" on the phone message and calling the recording a "5-week-old private conversation."

He said, "It's unfortunate. I'm sorry it happened, and I apologize."

Whitman, in response, said the word was offensive to women and believed it was a "personal attack" on her.

"It's not befitting of the office you're running for," she told her opponent.

Brown responded that the incident was not personal and that it didn't represent anything "other than things that happen in a campaign."

He said he didn't believe the word was as offensive as the "N-word."

Whitman, exasperated, said, "the people of California deserve better than slurs and personal attacks."

Earlier in the debate, Brown attacked a proposed tax break by the former eBay CEO that would be used to stimulate business.

The former governor said it was "a boon to millionaires and billionaires" at the expense of schools.

Whitman took aim at his prior record as governor and his relationships with various unions.

"My track record is creating jobs," she said. "My business is creating jobs. Your business is politics. You have been doing this for 40 years, and you have been part of a war on jobs in this state for 40 years."

The race remains a tight one, with Brown slightly ahead of Whitman, according to recent polls. That, despite Whitman's spending more than $100 million of her own money.

Tuesday's exchange was the third and final debate of the gubernatorial campaign.

However, according to the Los Angeles Times, Whitman and Brown are scheduled to appear together, alongside Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the Women's Conference in Long Beach on Oct. 26, in a conversation moderated by NBC's Matt Lauer.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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